Boulders Building

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Filed under buildings we just love: Biblioteca Parque Espana by Giancarlo Mazzanti in Medellin, Colombia. The idea is brilliantly simple: create an artificial natural formation as a landmark for the city. The building is covered in a gorgeous dark stone that gives it the coloration of the surrounding mountains. There is also a wonderful public space surrounding the boulders, creating a true acropolis for this special site. The boulders frame the views, making the experience one akin to the view one gets after a long day mountain climbing.

Tipped off (long ago) by Eikonographia.

Zaha And Chanel Do Up Art

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The Chanel Pavilion Of Contemporary Art, Seriously or whatever it's called gives you all of its formal secrets before you get it. It's swoopy. It's modular fiberglass. It's Chanel! It's hard to miss that on the outside, but the utopian aspirations are given a distinct flavor. There are creepy helpers scurrying around in their black coats and black ball caps: they only look like jackbooted fascists in a retro-sci-fi movie, even though they say they're just taking tickets. It's helpful to write about this project in three parts:

Architecture: Zaha designed a swoopy container. It's interesting, but the swoops get old fast, and the construction is still very Early-Swoop-Technology: some great fiberglass panel stuff but all the connections are held together by schmutz. And a few well placed screws where things didn't quite work out. All the ceilings are made with a terribly cheap looking stretched tent fabric material. Things that art containers need, like lighting, are relegated to black painted openings between stretch fabrics. Often the unpainted 2x4 wood blocking under the track lighting is visible. Gorgeous. But the ambition is incessant, which is why we love Zaha, and you have no choice but to accept it (otherwise just go find a rock in the park to sit on). Check out the excellent slideshow at Curbed.

Art: With few exceptions, highly derivative or too understated to stand against/work with The Container. For some reason they all have Chanel as their theme. It's meant to be a theme that ties them all together. It's not a very good idea. However there is a powerful slideshow by our favorite bondage photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and some very disturbing photographs by David Levinthal. And a piece by Leandro Erlich called Le Trottoir (The Sidewalk) that one needs to experience for something like 50 minutes, not the 5 minutes they give you before you're shuttled away.

Narration: The Container cocoons you in many ways, notably by covering your ears with headsets and an MP3 player that you cannot touch without screwing everything up. They let you know. And so you are torn from your companions and given a decent soundtrack and narration by Jeanne Moreau (who we love). At first I thought it was Zaha. Easy mistake to make: the narration script is hilariously pretentious. The problem is that the art isn't really sequenced the way the continuous soundtrack and narration suggest, it's just a bunch of separate pieces (that vaguely relate to the space and Chanel, yes) and someone has put cinematic schmutz in the gaps between them. We applaud the idea of seeing what is mostly New Media Art this way, but it's light years behind interactive media as accessible as Call Of Duty 4. It's a way of seeing art that is under explored. The Container poses the problem, but the results are mixed.

Buildings On Video

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0300 TV does what I was groping at with my post about that AIA site a few months back: simple video check ins on great buildings, some familiar, some not. With a minimum of interface. It's obviously a travelogue from someone based in Chile (today is Chile day at Tropolism) but we think it's the start of something great.

The site also contains videos on related topics, with interviews, art installations, and commentary about contemporary urban and media issues.

Gonzalo Mardones Viviani Arquitecto

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Tropolism means looking for beauty wherever it exists. The office of Gonzalo Mardones Viviani Arquitecto in Santiago, Chile, seems to encapsulate this sensibility perfectly. While their work includes the usual stable of nice-Modern houses and small public works buildings, they also have some standout projects. The El Parque Neighborhood residential development turns what could have been a boring roofscape into a neighborhood-sized sculpture. The suburbs never looked so good.

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Our favorite, however, is the powerful, understated Oratorio at Tierras Blancas, a sacred space defined by simple heavy timbers. The timbers are the barest mark of human intervention, allowing the existing hills that surround the space to act as a cathedral of nature.

Norwegian Embassy In Nepal

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Speaking of angly awesomeness, we bring you a more recent example: the Norwegian Embassy in Nepal. In many ways this is the building that Albert Ledner's aspires to be. The material progression is the same: masonry base, zigzag glass, powerful roof profile. The architects for the embassy, Kristin Jarmund Architects, simply refined the palette: rip rap looking stone, mullionless glass, simplified roof profile (to eliminate waterproofing issues, no doubt). Still, the comparison is worth making, if only to see the common ideas at work.

Albert Ledner's Maritime Awesomeness

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Regional Modernism, a great blog devoted to modernist buildings in the New Orleans Area, stopped by Albert Ledner's National Maritime Union while we were sleeping here at Tropolism. It sounds like some unwelcome modifications have been made to the exterior during its renovation.

Which then led us to more pictures of this freaky great building over at Alan Rosenberg's blog. Which of course led us back to good ole New York, where Ledner's other wacky building for the Union is in a preservation fight.

AIA Makes Videos

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In celebration of the American Institute of Architect's 150th Anniversary, they have launched Shape Of America, a video diary of American (presumably United States) buildings.

As of this writing, there are only seven buildings profiled. We like the assortment of off-the-beaten-path buildings (the upcoming video on 1963 Air Force Academy's Cadet Chapel by Walter A. Netsch) and the big name superstar buildings (at least for the FAIA set, like 1937's Taliesin West by Big Frank 1). Also, we love snapshots of old buildings in their current state, seeing what worked and didn't work in groundbreaking architecture. The video of Exeter Library shows just such snapshots, complete with cracked concrete and repointed bricks.

There are some quirks that read as crazy to this young internet user. The search function is buried in the lower right and clicking on View Entire Conversation leads one to...random long letters written by more FAIA members. It would have been much better if they'd just set up a channel on youtube and run an embedded blog. Also, the graphic design: what is up with those fat red gridlines they have insisted on using since the 1980's? Looks like a little less committee and a little more student intern control would have been in order, but all in all looks to be a good google-able resource once they get a critical mass posted.

Tropolism On TV

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Tropolism got a little mention on current.com's teeny featurette on architecture blogs.

Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0: Now With 100% More Boulders And Dirt!

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This is a big week for Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0 as it evolves from traffic control diagram to interesting for-real Pop-Up Park. Now with 100% more boulders and dirt! The boulders have already become a favorite of people looking for that previously-unavailable shot from +7' elevation of the Flatiron Building. And people who just want a boulder to sit on. Think about it: outside of Central Park, where can you really do that in this town?

Also of interest: installation images of the sand-like granulated covering. They put down an adhesive, rake the sand over it, and leaf blower it into final place. It's like a raked Japanese garden done by the DOT. Can you tell we're in heaven about this whole thing?

The topsoil (pictured in front of a truck from the installers, NYC's own Town and Gardens), is for the dozens of huge planters that are also arrayed on the park. Pictures as always in our Picasa photo album on the project.

The Madison Square Waterfall

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Overlooking our first instance of Pop-Up Park 2.0 is a building (yes yes it's 200 Fifth Avenue, stunning new luxury la la la all very important) being powerwashed, as it has been for several weeks now. Complete with blue tarp and scaffolding you can walk under. I pass under this temporary structure several times a day, and always feel a little of the spray as I pass under it. The tarp glows a bright blue, and to get by it you need to jump over a little gurgling river of runoff all around the block.

Just as Pop-Up Park 2.0 is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous proto-park (TM) the powerwashing is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous art. Because all the elements of an Olafur Eliasson installation are there. And if you don't get the blue tarp reference, I have included a picture of Your Inverted Veto, an installation at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (a gallery I designed) in 1998.

Farther down the rabbit hole, you will see my implicit (and so far silent) appreciation for Olafur's NYC Waterfalls. I wholeheartedly agree with those who say that the falls fail as objects, or that their water is not like a real waterfall, or that the New Yorkness of New York City overwhelms these constructions. In fact, I think that accurately describes whole segments of Olafur's installations: they are uninteresting objects, and their surroundings are far more interesting. But these descriptions wildly miss the point. As serendipitous effects in the city, or in nature, they are incredibly powerful. They invert the relationship between surroundings and work. In case this point is being debated as an intention, I offer the title of this work (which I also worked with Olafur on).

I have yet to see the waterfalls up close, and do not intend to "visit" them. Instead, I have intentionally seen them unexpectedly, accidentally, without intention. On the F train crossing the Manhattan Bridge at sunset (when two were visible at once); on the approach to LGA from IAD, over Brooklyn (when all four were visible); on a taxi also over the Manhattan Bridge (when I could only see one). They are the perfect art for the vehicles of transportation infrastructure: moving, pumping, flowing, spraying, pooling. And yes, a little inadequate if you crop the picture. They make more visible (and more poetic) the intricate dance of heavy transportation engineering. The sublime nature of New York City is turned up to 11.

The Madison Square Waterfall recreates this effect. This is the first positive test of the success of Olafur's NYC Waterfalls.

See the expanded ever-experimental Tropolism Picasa Pop-Up Park 2.0 album for more waterfall pics.

Pop-Up Park, 2.0

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Is this Pop-Up Park 2.0?

Since we first coined the phrase way back in ancient times, May 2008, the term has entered public consciousness. Dlandstudio has begun to own the term. But the DOT may come after them: their reorganization of the sea of asphalt just west of Madison Square Park, the place where many a tourist has risked life and limb for that oh so amazing shot of the Flatiron Building, has gone way beyond new traffic lines and asphalt paint for bike lanes. They have added a sandy granulated covering to the areas colored beige in their reorganization diagrams..

In a sense, this is 2.0 of pop-up park. Use some cheap materials (asphalt paint, sand, and some traffic cones) to see what happens when you create a little public space out of traffic re-egineering. All that is needed now is about a hundred Bryant Park tables and chairs and we'll be seeing them digging the whole thing up as a major park addition in 2011.

Check out Tropolism's highly experimental Picasa album of our walkthrough of the unfinished Pop-Up Park 2.0.